Total weekly case incidence has increased for the second consecutive week, with 144 new confirmed cases reported during the week leading up to 8 February. Guinea reported a sharp increase in cases, with 65 new confirmed cases during this reporting period, compared with 39 the week before. Transmission in Sierra Leone remains widespread, with 76 new confirmed cases during the reporting period. The resurgence of cases in the western district of Port Loko continued for a second week. Liberia continues to report a low number of new confirmed cases.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “despite improvements in case finding and management, burial practices and community engagement, the decline in case incidence has stalled,” adding that “the spike in cases in Guinea and continued widespread transmission in Sierra Leone underline the considerable challenges that must still be overcome to get to zero cases.”
WHO officials have disclosed that follow-up preparedness missions are planned for Mali and Senegal and will take place later this month. The missions will culminate in a meeting between Guinea, Mali and Senegal, which will focus on strengthening cross-border surveillance.
On 15 February, the leaders of the three worst affected West African countries vowed to eradicate Ebola by mid-April. At a summit in the Guinean capital, Conakry, the country’s president Alpha Conde, along with his Liberian and Sierra Leonean counterparts Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ernest Bai Koroma, made the pledge. Hadja Saran Daraba Kaba, the secretary-general of the Mano River Union bloc, which groups the countries, confirmed that the presidents of the three states “commit to achieving zero Ebola infections within 60 days effective today.” Reading a joint declaration from the three leaders, Mr Kaba stated that they “recognized the efforts that have been made by the member states and the international community, which have resulted in the decline of Ebola infections and death rates.” The West African leaders agreed to formulate a joint economic recovery, which will be presented at a conference on Ebola, to be held by the European Union in Brussels on 3 March. According to a statement released by the Guinean presidency, “this comprehensive plan covers topics that affect virtually all key areas of development: education, agriculture, industry, trade, health and social action that will focus on the issue of the management of Ebola orphans and impoverished families.” In January, the World Bank disclosed that the economic damage of the Ebola outbreak could run to US $6.2 billion, adding that the epidemic “will continue to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone even as transmission rates in the three countries show significant signs of slowing.” Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced US $100 million in debt relief for the three affected countries, with officials stating that they are preparing another US $160 million in concessional loans.
For a third week in a row, Guinea has reported an increase in case incidence. A total of eight prefectures reported a confirmed or probable case of Ebola during this reporting period.
The rise in new confirmed cases reported in Guinea was driven primarily by continued transmission in the capital city, Conakry, which reported 21 new confirmed cases during this reporting period; and the western prefecture of Forecariah, which reported 26 new confirmed cases. The east-Guinean prefecture of Lola reported seven new confirmed cases during this reporting period. The district of Kambia reported 11 confirmed cases. The north Guinean prefecture of Mali, which borders Senegal, reported its second confirmed case.
Officials have disclosed that a field team has been deployed to neighbouring Ivory Coast in order to assess the state of preparedness in the western region of the country, which borders Lola. According to the WHO, almost one-third of Guinea’s Ebola-affected prefectures reported at least one security incident in the week running up to 8 February.
Liberia reported a total of 3 confirmed cases during this reporting period. All of the cases originated in Montserrado county, which includes the capital Monrovia, and have been linked to a single chain of transmission. Eleven districts in Liberia have not reported a confirmed case of Ebola in over 42 days.
On Monday, schools in Liberia reopened after being delayed for months by the Ebola outbreak. A UNICEF spokeswoman disclosed Monday “here in Monrovia, children were coming back to school today. We went to one school this morning and saw how the school has implemented the protocols… The youth were washing their hands before entering the school premises and their temperature was checked. The teachers were also talking to the students about how to stay safe, and Ebola preventative measures.” UNICEF has been at the forefront of introducing safety measures aimed at combatting the spread of the deadly disease. Teachers have been trained to implement and monitor the safety measures, while soap and other hygiene materials have been distributed and mass mobilisation campaigns on Ebola prevention have been conducted nationwide.
Following a steep decline in case incidence from December until the end of January, transmission in Sierra Leone remains widespread. During the week leading up to 8 February, Sierra Leone reported a total of 76 cases, a decrease from the 80 cases that were confirmed in the week before however higher than the 65 confirmed cases that were reported in the week leading up to 25 January. A total of seven districts have reported new confirmed cases. The districts of Bo, Bonthe, Kailahun and Pujehun have all reported no cases for more than 21 days.
Transmission remains the most intense in the western region of the country. The capital city, Freetown, reported 19 new confirmed cases during this reporting period, compared with 22 the previous week. The neighbouring district of Port Loko saw a continuation of its recent resurgence of cases, with 28 new confirmed cases, compared with 36 cases that were reported during the previous week. The district of Kambia, which borders the Guinean prefecture of Forecariah, reported 11 new confirmed cases.
On 13 February, Sierra Leonean officials have placed hundreds of homes in the capital city under quarantine, in what is likely to be a huge blow to the country’s recover from the Ebola outbreak less than a month after the president lifted all travel restrictions. Obi Sesay, of the government’s National Ebola Response Centre, announced Friday “some 700 homes have been quarantined for 21 days in the tourism and fishing community of Aberdeen in the west of the capital Freetown, after the death of a fisherman who was later diagnosed Ebola positive.” Speaking to reporters, Sesay stated “twenty or more confirmed cases have been discovered in the last few days and we have opened a control center to deal with the crisis,” adding that officials “…are on top of the situation and people should not panic.” The Aberdeen area, which includes the popular Lumley Beach tourist resort, has been “flooded” with surveillance officers and contact tracers in a bid to ensure that the death does not turn into a serious outbreak. This new quarantine comes less than a month after President Ernest Bai Koroma revealed a “steady downward trend” in new Ebola cases, which resulted in him lifting country-wide quarantines and travel bans. When ending the measures on 23 January, which impacted half the country’s population, the president stated, “victory is in sight.” However officials on Wednesday reported that Sierra Leone has experienced a rise in new Ebola cases for the second week running. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), transmission remains “widespread” in Sierra Leone, which reported 76 new confirmed cases in the week leading up to 8 February.
While the deadliest Ebola epidemic ever has now killed 2,793 people in West Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO) officials disclosed Monday that outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria have been basically contained. A statement released by the UN health agency also published the results of the latest meeting of its Ebola emergency committee.
According to new figures released by the WHO, as of 18 September a total of 5,762 people have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in five Western countries. Guinea, where the outbreak initially began at the art of this year, along with neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone currently account for the most cases and continue to see their numbers rise. Liberia has especially been the hardest hit, with 3,022 cases and 1,578 deaths.
The WHO did note however “the outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria are pretty much contained.” According to officials, Senegal has not reported any new cases of the deadly virus since it registered its first and only case on August 29 – a Guinean student who has since recovered. Meanwhile Nigeria, where twenty-one people have been infected, eight of whom have died, has not reported any new cases since September 8. While no reports of new cases in Senegal and Nigeria does signify that both countries are slowly recovering, the WHO has not yet deemed them transmission free as the incubation period for Ebola is 21 days and double this time must pass without any new cases arising before a country can be deemed transmission free.
In a statement released Monday, the WHO also indicated that during a meeting of its Ebola emergency committee last week, officials had determined that the outbreak remains to be a “public health emergency of international concern.” The WHO has disclosed that the committee reiterated its opposition to general bans on international travel or trade, noting that people infected with Ebola, or those who had come into contact with Ebola patients, should not be permitted to travel. The committee also warned that blocking flights to or from affected areas and other travel restrictions only served to “isolate affected countries, resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread.” The emergency committee did stress that in cases where measures like quarantines are deemed necessary, countries must ensure that “they are proportionate and evidence-based, and that accurate information, essential services and commodities, including food and water are provided to the affected populations,” insisting that “adequate security measures” should be put in place in order to ensure the safety and protection of heath workers, who face high infection rates and sometimes violence from frustrated and frightened populations. Last week, eight members of an Ebola education team, said to include local health officials and journalists, were found dead after they were attacked by angry locals in southern. This is the first such incident where health workers combatting EVD were killed.
Days after a team of officials went missing while visiting a village in Guinea in a bid to raise awareness about Ebola, officials confirmed late Thursday that all nine members were killed by local villagers. In August, MS Risk analysts warned that attacks on Ebola workers in West Africa may spark similar reactions to those carried out against polio workers, in which a number of volunteers have been killed while administering polio vaccinations. This death of nine members of a team attempting to raise awareness about Ebola signifies that the threat to health workers and local authorities trying to combat the disease is high, and will likely intensify as the virus continues to spread. Further such incidents will be likely be reported in the affected countries. Steps to combat myths about the disease, which are common across the region, must be taken in order to ensure health workers’ safety and to curb the virus’ spread.
On Tuesday the group of nine Guineans, which included two journalists, local officials and several health workers, fled the village of Wome, located in the southern Nzerekore region, after their group was pelted with stones. A journalist who managed to escape later told officials that she could hear villages looking for the group while she was hiding. On Wednesday a government delegation, led by the country’s health minister Remy Lamah, had been dispatched to the region however they were unable to reach the village by road as the main bridge was blocked.
Officials disclosed Friday that seven of the bodies were located in a septic tank in a village school near the city of Nzerekore while the other two were located in the bush. According to officials, the bodies showed signs of being attacked with machetes and clubs. Six people have been arrested, with on the ground sources reporting that the village is now deserted. According to local police officials, at least 21 people were wounded during the unrest. While the motive for the killings has not been confirmed, it is believed that the villagers’ suspicions of officials attempting to combat the disease lead to the group being attacked and its members murdered. Many Guineans believe that local and foreign health workers are part of a conspiracy, which either deliberately introduced the outbreak, or invented it as a means of luring Africans to clinics in order to harvest their blood and organs. Some still do not believe that the disease exists despite more than 2,600 people killed by the virus.
In recent weeks, tensions have been rising across West Africa as the Ebola epidemic continues to rise. A number of incidents of frustrated civilians attacking local officials have been reported however this is the first incident in which officials were killed for attempting to combat the deadly virus. Last month, riots erupted in Nzerekore, Guinea, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Wome, after rumours emerged that medics who were disinfecting a market were contaminating people. There have also been a number of reports of people in the region refusing to cooperate with health authorities over fears that a diagnosis means certain death.
Myths such as these have emerged over the past few months and have greatly impacted the spread of the current outbreak. Officials at the World Health Organisation (WHO) have confirmed that the already difficult conditions are made more difficult by public misunderstand caused by “rumours on social media claiming that certain products or practices can prevent or cure Ebola Virus Disease.” Such myths have not only impacted Guinea, but other countries, including Nigeria, where at least two people died as a result of drinking salt water after stories circulated that doing so would protect against the deadly disease. Other supposed cures for the virus include raw onions, coffee, condensed milk and holy water. Some civilians have opted to hide infected family members at home, or prefer to take them to local doctors instead of an Ebola treatment centre. Health officials in Sierra Leone disclosed in August that the Ebola outbreak spread from Guinea after an herbalist in the remote eastern border village of Sokoma claimed to have powers to heal the deadly virus. Officials have since confirmed that the virus spread in Sierra Leone after cases from Guinea cross over the border, seeking treatment.
Fears over the deadly virus have also sparked riots and attacks on health workers. As the Ebola outbreak continues, such attacks may spark similar reactions to those carried out against polio workers.
At the start of the outbreak, a team from MSF had to stop working at an isolation ward in Guinea after local residents mistakenly believed that they had brought the virus with them. Groups of health workers from MSF, the Red Cross and from the ministry of health have been pelted with rocks as they attempted to reach Ebola-hit areas. In Liberia, a number of Ebola patients escaped a healthcare facility after it was attacked by rioters. Due to the region’s recent history of bloody civil war, some believe that the army’s deployment to control the affected areas is a sign that the government is deliberately infecting people in a bid to have an excuse to enforce martial law.
According to new figures released Thursday by the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 1,900 people have died in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak. There have also been 3,500 confirmed or probable cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. WHO chief Margaret Chan warned Thursday “the outbreaks are racing ahead of the control efforts in these countries,” adding that at least US $600 million (£360 million) is needed in order to fight the virus. Ms Chan has described the current outbreak as “the largest and most severe and most complex we have ever seen.”
The latest statistics represent a significant increase from the 1,552 deaths and 3,069 cases that were reported by the Geneva-based organisation last week. According to the WHO, more than 40% of the deaths have occurred in the three weeks leading up to 3 September. This indicates that the epidemic is fast outpacing efforts to control it. According to Ms Chan, the WHO “…would like to reverse the trend in three months” in those countries where there is a “very tense transmission.” This includes Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In countries with “localized transmission,” such as Senegal, where so far only one case has been reported, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which now has reported 31 deaths, the WHO “would like to stop all transmission within eight weeks.”
The speed of the deadly virus has prompted WHO officials to meet on Thursday in order to examine the most promising treatments and to discuss how to fast-track testing and production. According to sources, disease control experts, medical researchers, officials from affected countries and specialists in medical ethics will be represented at the meeting, which will take place in Geneva.
The Ebola virus has continued to spread in Nigeria, despite WHO officials stating that they were hopeful it would remain under control. On Wednesday, Nigerian authorities reported two additional cases in the city of Port Harcourt. Until the Port Harcourt case was announced, Nigeria’s government had indicated that the virus was contained in Lagos. On Thursday, the WHO warned “the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Port Harcourt has the potential to grow larger and spread faster than the one in Lagos.” The UN health body has disclosed that the virus’ arrival in Port Harcourt, located 435 kilometres (270 miles) east of Lagos and home to oil and gas majors including Chevron, Shell and Total, showed “multiple high-risk opportunities for transmission of the virus to others.” Out of 255 people currently under surveillance for signs of the disease, 60 are considered to have had “high-risk or very high-risk exposure.
As Ebola deaths in Guinea pass the 100 mark, World Health Organization (WHO) officials have indicated that the latest outbreak of the deadly virus is the “most challenging.”
On Tuesday, the United Nations World Health Organization stated that the number of people believed to have been killed by the Ebola virus in Guinea has passed 100, adding that it was “one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks we have ever dealt with,” and noting that it could take another four months to contain the deadly virus.
Officials at the WHO have stated that there are currently 157 cases in Guinea, where 101 people have died. Twenty cases have been reported in Guinea’s capital city, Conakry. Sixty-seven of these cases have been confirmed as Ebola. Liberia has also recorded 21 cases and 10 deaths.
While southern Guinea is the epicentre of the outbreak, with the first case reported last month, porous borders amongst many West African states coupled with people frequently travelling between countries, have led to the virus spreading to Liberia. Officials however did receive some good news earlier this week when tests showed that suspected cases in Ghana and Sierra Leone were not Ebola. Two of nine suspected cases in Mali were also cleared. However Dr Keiji Fukuda of the WHO has warned that it is still too early to say whether the rate of transmission is slowing but that the outbreak is far from over. The geographical spread of the outbreak is continuing to make it particularly challenging to contain as past outbreaks involved much smaller areas.
Meanwhile on Saturday, officials in Guinea appealed for calm in the Ebola-hit southern region of the country after a group of international aid workers battling to contain an outbreak of the deadly virus were attacked by a mob. Sources have indicated that Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was forced to suspend its operations in Macenta, in south-eastern Guinea, on Friday after crowds attacked one of its centres. Officials in Conakry later indicated that the crowd had gathered as rumours circulated in the town that the virus was “imported into Guinea or that Ebola fever does not exist in our country.”
A statement issued by Guinea’s government on Saturday vowed that lawbreakers would be brought to justice and said it was “calling for calm and serenity to enable our partners to support us to eradicate this epidemic.” The statement further noted that “the government has protests against such information and reiterates that only the recognition of the existence of the disease will help fight against it.” In regards to the MSF’s work in Guinea, the statement indicated that “the contribution of MSF and all international organisations that are supporting Guinea in the fight against the pandemic is invaluable and has helped so far to contain the disease,” adding that “without these partners, the disease would not be under control today.” MSF has 52 international experts who are working alongside Guinean staff in Conakry and the provincial towns of Gueckedou and Macenta, which are located in the southern epicentre of the outbreak. The MSF’s spokesman Sam Taylor stated Saturday “”MSF’s head of mission is in Gueckedou to meet with the regional governor, senior health officials and local community leaders. We hope to restart our work as soon as possible.” Sources have indicated that MSF is planning to restart its Macenta operation as soon as possible. Treatment is continuing in Gueckedou, another town that has been badly hit by the outbreak.